FBI began election probe of DA Watkins 20 months ago

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by BYRON HARRIS

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WFAA

Posted on March 13, 2013 at 10:00 PM

Updated Wednesday, Mar 13 at 10:21 PM

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NEWS 8 INVESTIGATES

DALLAS — It's no secret that a Dallas Judge has cited District Attorney Craig Watkins for contempt in a case involving one of his biggest campaign donors.

But News 8 has learned the FBI began investigating Watkins 20 months ago in an investigation that included another campaign donation.

It was July 13, 2011. FBI agents came to Craig Watkins' 11th floor courthouse office with subpoenas and questions.

Part of the investigation: A $10,000 campaign donation from the wife of Dallas dentist Richard Malouf.

"They did come, and they asked to see all the files involved," assistant DA Rocky Jones told News 8.

The DA's office had previously conducted an investigation of Malouf which ended in a $46,000 settlement.

"They did take copies of several things," Jones said. "We didn't know what they took copies of."

News 8 has learned that in December 2009, Richard Malouf's attorney Gregory Shamoun presented Watkins with three campaign checks.

The largest — $10,000 — was from Leanne Malouf, Dr. Malouf's wife. After receiving the donation, Watkins was asked to come to Shamoun's office for a meeting.

Malouf was there, asking to talk about a criminal investigation in which he was the target. Watkins left the meeting immediately, his office saod.

Watkins' campaign returned the Malouf donation with a check drawn from his campaign funds.

What might surprise many voters is how much money goes to judges and district attorneys at Texas courthouses, and how often it happens.

"You have in Texas judges [who] routinely accept campaign contributions from people who are going to appear before them the next day," said assistant Dallas County DA Heath Harris.

Harris says it's up to judges and district attorneys not to let the donations sway their judgement.

"You have judges who take campaign contributions from lawyers. Lawyers are representing Joe Blow," Harris said.

"Joe Blow," Harris says, may have a case in the judge's court.

Shamoun, Dr. Malouf's attorney, was not available for comment.

The FBI doesn't talk about investigations.

According to The Dallas Morning News and the Associated Press, the FBI is investigating Watkins again for donations from another attorney.

Although there is nothing illegal about attorneys making donations to judges or district attorneys, some lawyers say the system itself needs to be investigated.

E-mail bharris@wfaa.com

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